Making the Transition to Fiber Deep Networks

Building a fiber network or pushing fiber deeper can be a daunting task for any service providers. Fiber optic deployments are moving toward network architectures that drives fiber deeper not just in FTTx networks, but in intelligent buildings and at cell sites. They require innovative technologies to meet their subscribers demand for bandwidth. Erik Gronvall explains what service providers are facing in 2016 and some fiber solutions they can deploy.

Fiber_SmallAs bandwidth consumption continues to rise sharply, and service providers face ever-increasing competition to win over subscribers, operators and data center managers are in a race to adopt the best methodologies for bringing fiber deeper into their networks.

Let’s take a look at the challenges and benefits for each group in 2016 as they evaluate how to drive fiber deeper.

Cable and Broadband Providers

There are a few questions that these operators will ask as they look at more fiber. What are the benefits? How will my architecture change? What new technologies does fiber help enable? Are there opportunities for additional revenue?

Beyond bandwidth, having more fiber in the network gives operators other important benefits, such as reduced operational costs, energy use, and a smaller carbon footprint. Operators have to weigh the pros and cons of updating or replacing their existing hybrid fiber coax (HFC) or copper infrastructure. And if these legacy networks have to exist, what’s the tipping point for upgrading or bringing fiber all the way to the home or business? And what does that technology migration path look like?

With the advancement of today’s network technologies, operators need to examine different strategies and approaches for bringing fiber deeper into their network. Network architectures can vary significantly, and offer different benefits, depending on the short term or long term use. It’s important to consider the location of optical splitters in the network, along with the use of hardened connectors or splices – all of which impact costs and speed of deployment. Plug-and-play and Rapid Fiber technologies are tools that can help considerably to reduce costs and speed deployments. In addition, Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG) and fiber-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) technologies can be used as effective transition tools in the path to achieve all fiber networks. Other important considerations are how easily can the plant be upgraded from 1G, 10G and beyond? Regardless of the technologies leveraged, operators need to balance the cost of the initial fiber deployment with the long-term maintenance requirements of the network. Flexibility of the network is critical, as network operators need to be able to respond to changing demands and service requirements.

New fiber network architectures such as fiber indexing have the potential to reduce construction and cabling costs in the distribution network. Fiber indexing is a novel approach that uses connectorized cables and terminals, and allows installers to use a cookie-cutter approach to build out the network. The exact same components are “daisy-chained” together, limiting the need for custom cable assemblies or splicing. When compared to a typical star topology, fiber indexing can reduce the total length of cable deployed by up to 70 percent, significantly reducing deployment time and cots.

Lastly, operators should consider the additional revenue opportunities that exist by bringing fiber deeper into their network. Leveraging a passive optical network (PON) network, for example, creates opportunities for adding devices such as distributed antenna systems (DAS), Wi-Fi and small cells. One or more of these devices can provide a roadmap to increase revenue output of the network.

Data Center and Enterprises

Connected and efficient buildings need to enable wireless connectivity throughout the building, whether it’s for high speed Wi-Fi or mobile network services. Likewise, as mobile technologies continue to move towards 4G/LTE and beyond, intelligent buildings will also need to provide coverage and capacity for the latest technologies. For buildings management, it allows truly informed long term real estate planning and greatly improved return on investments.

Fiber in the Wireless Network

Fiber-to-the-antenna (FTTA) also continues to prove it is one of the most efficient ways to implement LTE. It will allow for enhanced energy efficiency, increased bandwidth and improved flexibility that will assist operators’ deployment of LTE successful. In this architecture, remote radio units are mounted at the top of the tower, or in the case of rooftop deployments, as close to the antenna as possible.

In summary, with the increasing need to deliver more bandwidth, network operators and service providers will continue to focus on improving network efficiency by deploying more fiber. It is up to them to maintain and expand their networks to keep up with their subscribers’ bandwidth and data demands. Are your networks ready for the consumer thirst for bandwidth?